Friday, February 1, 2013

Reflections On Columbia's Tragic Anniversary

Last Week we marked the 27th anniversary of the the tragedy that befell the Challenger Space Shuttle crew of STS 51-L that carried the first Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe and Lt. Col. Ellison Shoji Onizuka of Hawaii. Today makes another sad anniversary for both the American Space Program and the United States. It was a decade ago today that the Space Shuttle Columbia Flight STS 107 broke apart over the skies of Texas on re-entry killing all seven astronauts Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David M. Brown, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon.Their deaths reminded everyone just how dangerous it is to work in Space and how we have collectively taken these bright, brave remarkable people who had put their lives on the line and risked everything for both science and the pride of their three combined nations represented India, Isreal, and the United States. Their sacrifice has not been forgotten.

God Speed Columbia.

I am no journalist by any means so I have no one to answer to if I go out on a limb. What I am about to tell you is something most writers would never do. I would like to share something rather strange that happened to yours truly that morning. As Columbia prepared to re-enter Earth's orbit somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, I was sound asleep after being up late the night before. Some of my most vivid dreams come just before I wake up and that particular morning was no exception. I had found myself in a rather dark featureless room that offered no dimension. On one side diagonally positioned from where I stood was a simple office door with a window. Bright light could be seen emitting from the other side of the door. To the other side of this strange dark place was another door identical to the other also emitting bright light. And in between was heavy ground fog. It was a strange cold place to be that offered no explanation. Then suddenly it happened. 

The door facing me on one end swung open and light could be seen illuminating the heavy thick ground fog that came up to my knees. And just when things could not get stranger. I wanted to walk towards that open door when suddenly a figure appeared walking towards me from that door towards the direction of the opposite door. I instantly recognized who this was. It was Astronaut Kalpana Chawla walking past me dazed and confused in her orange space suit that had patches of black soot in places. Her gloves were missing as was her helmet. Her hair was a mess and she seemed to not know where she was but knew to walk towards the other door. I could not remember what she was saying. Yet she spoke and seemed to have no idea where she was. Like two ships in the night we slowly passed each other in the dense ground fog. I can still recall the look in her eyes. She continued to mumble random thoughts as she walked past. Once at the threshold she blended in with the light. I woke up a minute later and had this feeling that I should turn on the television in my bedroom. It was at that moment I became aware of the tragedy. And to my horror, the dream made perfect sense. But this is just one man's dream in which no way changes the fact that these brave astronauts were burned alive in the most tragic means.

While I can not prove any of this, it's not important for you to believe my story. What is important is that these people did live and in some way touched our lives in their tragic wake. I believe that Kalpana Chawla was a believer in reincarnation as many people of her country of her birth in India are. As a Buddhist, I see this as hope. Wherever she may be, I hope that Kalpana Chawla and her crewmates are at peace and will continue to inspire us and perhaps will rejoin us one day.

God Speed Columbia. God Speed

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